Sun Protection Tips

When the sun hits your skin, it can cause damage to healthy skin in as little as 15 minutes. This damage can build up with more and more sun exposure. With time, sun exposure can lead to visible signs of sun damage such as freckles, age spots, wrinkles, precancerous growths and eventually to skin cancer. Sun protection can prevent the buildup of sun damage.

Sun protection is needed year-round. Ultraviolet rays are still present during the winter months and during overcast days. Dermatologists recommend a broad-spectrum sunscreen, with an SPF of 30 or higher. Sunscreen should be applied at least 15 minutes prior to sun exposure and reapplied every 2 hours while exposed to the sun. Sunscreen should also be re-applied after swimming or sweating.

One ounce of sunscreen, equivalent to two tablespoons, should be applied to all sun exposed areas with each application. A nickel size amount or a third of a teaspoon should be applied to the face alone. When applying sunscreen, one should not forget the scalp, nose, lips, ears, hands and feet if they are exposed. The back of the neck is another area that should not be forgotten when applying sunscreen.

In addition to sunscreen, there are other sun protective options. In addition to using sunscreens, you can protect sun exposed areas with sun protective clothing. There are several brands on the market to choose from. It is also advisable to wear a large-brimmed hat when out in the sun to protect the face and the scalp. Driving gloves can be worn to protect the hands from ultraviolet light that comes through window glass. Also, sunglasses are important to prevent the damaging effect of UV light on the eyes.

California is a beautiful state full of sunshine and great weather. It is Important to practice sun safety in order to have fun in the sun. When out in the sun it is important to try and find shade especially between the hours of 10:00 AM and 2:00 PM when the sun is at its strongest. Extra caution is needed when you are near water, sand or snow since they reflect UV light and increase sun damage.

Many people worry about vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D deficiency continues to increase in the United States. Small amounts of ultraviolet rays are needed for the skin to make vitamin D. Unfortunately, small amounts of ultraviolet light over time can increase the risk of developing skin cancer. There is no safe level of UV exposure that allows for vitamin D production without increasing the risk of skin cancer. If sun protection is a direct link to vitamin D deficiency than one would think that the increase in vitamin D deficiency should lead to a decrease in skin cancer rate, which is not the case. Skin cancer rate continues to increase. Environmental factors such as latitude, season, time of day, and pollution in the atmosphere can decrease vitamin D conversion in the skin, increasing the risk of vitamin D deficiency. 

Everyone should have their vitamin D level checked. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that healthy adults should obtain an adequate amount of vitamin D from a diet that includes foods naturally rich in vitamin D and or foods or beverages fortified with vitamin D. Additional vitamin D supplements can be used to optimize one’s vitamin D level.

Antioxidants play an important role in protecting the skin from sun damage. There are topical and oral antioxidants that help reverse the damage that occurs from the sun. There are multiple topical antioxidants that can help reduce sun damage. Oral antioxidants found in blueberries and other fruits and vegetables can also play a role in the health of your skin. Polypodium leucotomos extract (PLE) is a powerful antioxidant, due to its high content of phenolic compounds, that has been shown to reduce the damaging effect of the sun. This product is marketed under the name Heliocare.

There are so many ways to protect our skin from the damage of UV rays and still be able to enjoy California sun. Being aware of all the different options that are out there will help us keep our skin safe and healthy.